It is becoming increasingly apparent that not all insulin-secreting beta cells are equal. Subtle differences exist at the transcriptomic and protein expression levels, with repercussions for beta cell survival/proliferation, calcium signalling and insulin release. Notably, beta cell heterogeneity displays plasticity during development, metabolic stress and type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM). Thus, heterogeneity or lack thereof may be an important contributor to beta cell failure during T2DM in both rodents and humans. The present review will discuss the molecular and cellular features of beta cell heterogeneity at both the single-cell and islet level, explore how this influences islet function and insulin release, and look into the alterations that may occur during obesity and T2DM.